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What is Write-Around Discussion?
This strategy provides students with opportunity to either activate prior knowledge on a topic or consolidate recently-learned information. This strategy is for use with small groups of students.
Why use it?
- To provide students with the opportunity to practice the skills of communication, collaboration, and critical thinking.
- To help students consolidate learning of new material by immediate use of the information.
- To help students activate prior knowledge on a topic to be discussed in class.
- To provide all students in class with an opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of a particular topic.
How do I use it?
- Organize students in groups of 3 to 5. Provide each student with a blank Write-Around Discussion Template[.doc] [.pdf].
- Assign the topic or question about which each student is to write. After giving students a short time to think about the topic, signal students to begin writing what they know about the topic. Allow 2 – 3 minutes of writing time.
- Upon the signal “PASS”, students are to immediately stop writing, even if it is in the middle of a sentence. Each student then passes his/her composition to the person on his/her right.
- Give the students the “START” signal. At this time, each student reads what was written and continues the ‘story’ by adding new content to that which was written.
- After 2 – 3 minutes, give the “PASS” signal. Once again the composition is passed to the student on his/her right. This process of writing and passing on continues until each student eventually gets his/her original paper back.
- As a group, the students then discuss each of the ‘stories’ and choose which one is most representative of the groups’ knowledge/understanding of the topic/issue.
Tips for success
- Monitor the degree of engagement in the latter paper swaps and reduce the time accordingly if students appear to have nothing further to add.
- If used to activate prior knowledge before addressing a topic, stimulate students’ recall by posing some specific questions on the topic, reminding them of related content, or polling students on different aspects of the topic.
- If used to consolidate new learning, engage students in a review of the main topics discussed before they begin writing.
- The time provided on each subsequent pass could be increased to allow for additional reading time of the composition.
- Allow sufficient thinking time before students begin to write. Ensure students understand that some students require more processing time and that they may not get to write as much as others.
- Go digital by having students use Google docs to write their document or compose on a laptop or tablet which is passed around.
- Each group can present their selected composition to the class. Alternately, individual members of a group could share something they learned as a result of the process.
- Students with written output difficulties could use an audio recording device which would be passed to the next person in the group.
- Instead of adding new content to the composition, students could react to the content written by asking questions, agreeing/disagreeing, writing a comment, or sharing connections of their own to the content being written.
- After the first pass of the original composition, students could alternate between adding content or reacting to the content as it is written.
- Teachers could collect the groups’ representative writing as an exit activity.
Daniels H., Zemelman, S., Steineke, N. (2007) Content-Area Writing: Every Teacher's Guide. Heinemann, Portsmouth, NH.
St. Helen’s School District. “Don’t pass on using a write-around”. Accessed January 20, 2016.
Starting Points Using Write-Around Discussions